In “Scientists Think Spirituality Is Congruent With Scientific Discovery, Religion Is Not” Medical News Today (06 May 2011), we
More than 20 percent of atheist scientists are spiritual, according to new research from Rice University. Though the general public marries spirituality and religion, the study found that spirituality is a separate idea – one that more closely aligns with scientific discovery – for “spiritual atheist” scientists.
[ … ]
For example, these scientists see both science and spirituality as “meaning-making without faith” and as an individual quest for meaning that can never be final. According to the research, they find spirituality congruent with science and separate from religion, because of that quest; where spirituality is open to a scientific journey, religion requires buying into an absolute “absence of empirical evidence.”
This story encapsulates the cleverest riff that materialist atheists have ever constructed to deny the reality of the mind and substitute the notion that apes r’ us: Getting everyone to accept that “faith is based on buying into an absolute ‘absence of empirical evidence.’” Countless Christian academics play house with materialist atheists, constructing “existential” theories about faith that gut the traditional “show me a sign” demand for evidence.
For years, I laboured as co-author of a book that fruitfully assumed the exact opposite. We found that:
– Most traditionally religious people believe what they do based on evidence – from their own lives. They count that evidence over surveys, polls, studies, and theories because they are in the best position to assess the outcome of their own experience.
– Many people have spiritual experiences, but because there is no common vocabulary, they describe them in different ways, with different degrees of success. This fact is commonly used by materialist atheists to cast doubt on the reality that underlies them.
– The traditional method of evaluating claims about such experiences is not a colourful account but: Did it change the person’s words and actions over the long term?
Indeed, traditional spiritual directors quickly stamp out “spiritual excitement” because
… Freud did not “discover” that unconscious desires can fool people into believing that they see or hear things. Spiritual directors have known that all too well for centuries! Walter Hilton, writing in the early fifteenth century, advised the mystic who experiences any type of vision to “refuse it and assent not thereto.” John of the Cross later offered the same advice, explaining, “That which properly and generally comes from God is a purely spiritual communication.” Stace follows this up, noting that “a genuine mystical experience is nonsensuous. It is formless, shapeless, colorless, odorless, soundless.”
–The Spiritual Brain, p. 194.
Which brings us to …
Ecklund and Long noted that the spiritual scientists saw boundaries between themselves and their nonspiritual colleagues because their spirituality facilitated engagement with the world around them. Such engagement, according to the spiritual scientists, generated a different approach to research and teaching: While nonspiritual colleagues might focus on their own research at the expense of student interaction, spiritual scientists’ sense of spirituality provides nonnegotiable reasons for making sure that they help struggling students succeed.
Now, if there was a charitable way of saying this, I would: These scientists’ claims are nothing more than a display of “I’m better than them.”
John of the Cross would tell them to stuff their self-congratulation: It is a highway spanning pixelboard for inauthentic spirituality. No one who really knows the unseen world talks that way, so they are merely advertising the presumptuous falsity of their imaginings.
The best they can ever hope to be is forgiven – but fortunately, that’s all it takes.